Napping: How Much Is Enough For A Mood Boost?July 13, 2017
In the past few years, several companies across the US have adopted snooze-friendly policies. Two examples: Google’s legendary sleep pods, and publishing giant The Huffington Post’s designated rooms for napping. For the latter, the push for health and wellness in the workplace became a priority after co-founder Arianna Huffington collapsed from exhaustion at her desk one night – and broke her cheekbone as a result.
Suddenly, taking a nap during work hours isn’t a bad thing; if these big companies are encouraging their employees to snooze, that means it must be a workplace culture worth cultivating, no?
Not so fast. Before you drop an email to your boss demanding a personalised sleep pod, let’s get a better understanding of how naps can give you a mood boost.
What Naps Do To Your Brain
To answer this question, we have to first take a look at how sleep cycles work. As we sleep, we go through several sleep cycles, each lasting about 90 minutes. During a sleep cycle, we move through stages of light followed by deep sleep. It is during the deep sleep that the body repairs and regrows tissues, as well as strengthens the immune system – it is also during this stage that it’s harder to get woken up; and, if something or someone did manage to wake you up, you would likely feel foggy and disoriented for a minute or so.
A 2012 study led by Georgetown University’s Center for Functional and Molecular Imaging in the US found that during a nap, the right side of the brain is more active than the left side. Now, the right side of the brain contributes to communicative functions such as attention, memory, reasoning and problem solving, so the results of the study suggest that napping can help boost right-brain activity and, ergo, enhance our communicative functions.
Several other studies have also backed up the theory. According to these studies, napping has been found to improve performance and alertness, benefit the learning process, and solidify memories. Physiological health-wise, napping has been linked to lower rates of cardiovascular diseases and inflammation. Additionally, it’s also been shown to lower stress levels and elevate one’s moods.
How Much Is Too Much?
The length of a nap can last 30 seconds (yes, it’s known as a nano nap) or even three hours. Typically, a power nap of approximately 20 minutes has been shown to deliver optimal benefits in terms of restoring wakefulness as well as boosting performance, mood and learning. A study from Flinders University in Australia even found that the above benefits of a nap can last for two to three hours if the nap duration is 10 to 15 minutes. The same study also revealed that a five-minute nap didn’t quite yield the same benefits, while a nap of 25 to 30 minutes resulted in the participant being less alert for up to an hour post-nap!
Another tip? Take your power nap in the mid-afternoon, around 2pm or 3pm. Typically, this is when you experience in dip in alertness; plus, if you took a nap during this time of the day, you are less likely to experience trouble sleeping later at night.
So, to sum it up, you can sleep your way to better mood and health – just keep your naps to no more than 30 minutes a day.